Beyond having a beautiful smile, there are a lot of reasons to pay close attention to your oral health.
For one thing, bacteria in your mouth puts you at risk of getting pneumonia, heart disease, and diabetes. On top of those risks, a recent study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago found that bacteria that cause periodontal disease (gum disease) may cause degeneration in your brain. Yes, in your BRAIN.
That study found that mice who were exposed to the bacteria associated with chronic periodontitis wound up with some bad brain side effects. Specifically, those mice had:
¨ More brain inflammation
¨ Fewer intact brain cells
¨ More amyloid beta — a type of plaque found in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer’s Disease
But, worse yet, the negative changes in the mice weren’t limited to just in the brain. When the researchers studied the genes of these mice they found there was a greater expression of genes associated with inflammation and degeneration. They also found that the DNA from the bacteria in the mouth had found it’s way into their brains.
Dr. Keiko Watanabe, professor of periodontics at UIC College of Dentistry and author of the study, said “Our data not only demonstrate the movement of bacteria from the mouth to the brain, but also that chronic infection leads to neural effects similar to Alzheimer’s”.
So how do you prevent bacteria in your mouth from damaging your brain? First, check to see if you have any symptoms of gum disease. Do you have any of these:
¨ Red, swollen gums
¨ Gums the bleed easily
¨ Bad breath
¨ Gums that look smaller than they used to (a sign of gum recession)
¨ Sensitive teeth
¨ Teeth that feel loose or like they’re shifting
These signs could mean you’re developing gum disease already. So if you have these signs, see your dentist. They may do a deep cleaning and possibly even special cleaning like scaling or root planing… but see them to find out what the situation is and what should be done.
If you don’t have any of the symptoms listed above — good. Make sure to do these things daily to prevent gum disease:
¨ Brushing after meals
¨ Flossing at least once a day
¨ Using antibacterial mouthwash (there are some made with tea tree oil and other natural substances)
¨ Eating a healthy, low-sugar diet.
And see your dentist regularly.